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I recall an ongoing discussion a few years back regarding IP (internet protocol) addresses and the layers of networking architecture (have I lost you yet?). IP addresses are how computing devices are individually identified on networks. The discussion centered on concerns about the ability to address the rapidly increasing number of nodes and devices because the latest version of IP, version 6, uses 128 bit address space versus the old IP version 4, developed 35 years ago, which was based on 32 bit. NOW have I lost you? I should have. You still here?!

When you are online YOU are a unique address on the network that connects you to the internet and lets you do your internet thing. Unlike your TV which just receives information (that will change in the near future) your Internet device both broadcasts and receives. Your IP address, identifying you, allows that to happen. Think of it as your electronic home address, even though it's a home you carry around if you use a laptop or smart phone or tablet or . . .

In the old internet days there were 4.3 billion unique public addresses available using IP version 4. Just recently we ran out of addresses. Really! 4.3 BILLION just isn't doing it anymore. And that total does not include the vast number of devices that hide behind one of those 4.3 billion public addresses - that use private addresses, like customers of Methownet have. Think of those like an apartment building that has all the mail delivered to one box then distributed to apartment dwellers privately by the building's supervisor.

However, using IP version 6 there are:
340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456, that’s right,
340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 unique IP addresses.
Now, THAT'S a lot.

IP version 6 has been around for well over a decade but the U.S. has been slow to adopt it. That changed recently - without fanfare for you to notice - and we’re into IP version 6 now, en masse.

Asian countries started to use the newer address space quite a while back. In fact they had so many addresses available to use that they started using network nodes with individual addresses for dairy cattle. As an example, a cow with a WIFI, a node of her own, was "udderly" unique. Imagine the fun: her own web site. I know. It all sounds pretty cheesy. No, I'm not apologizing for that.

And by the way, how do you say
340 undecillion, 282 decillion, 366 nonillion, 920 octillion, 938 septillion, 463 sextillion, 463 quintillion, 374 quadrillion, 607 trillion, 431 billion, 768 million, 211 thousand and 456. Retain that bit of information for your next pub visit - maybe the other pub clients will have some respect and address you properly.


Have a comment? >>

This is terrific. I can now say "a decillion" (things) instead of my old handy "a gazillion" (things). Smarter.

Barbara Berry

Bothell, Wa

My wife thinks you had to look up the names of all those numbers in the last paragraph. I am concerned that you used two, rather than one space after a period. Nonethemore, I think yours is the best ongoing stuff on GRIST. A Hardy Thank you. (Wait, I think I spelled that wrong.)

Bob Spiwak

West Boesel